It is official: Ron Howard is taking over the duties of director on the upcoming Han Solo stand-alone film. And for the most part, fans seem to be pretty excited, judging by chatter over social media.
The news that original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired just two days ago rocked Hollywood and Star Wars fan everywhere. Now it’s time for The Hollywood Reporter staffers to discuss the path forward with Howard at the helm — and whether it’s the right move for a galaxy far, far away.
Ryan Parker: Being someone who was not all the excited for this film from the start, bringing Howard in makes me interested. I am a big fan of his work, and there is something about him and a young Harrison Ford being in American Graffiti (1973) together that makes this feel right in a strange nerd-universe sort of way.
Graeme McMillan: Is it just me, or is Howard the perfect director to step in here and embody the current state of Lucasfilm? He’s solid, he’s professional and he’s reliable — but he’s also not particularly exciting, and very much of the age group of both Kathleen Kennedy and Lawrence Kasdan. It feels oddly symbolic of the fact that Star Wars remains the property of “safe pair[s] of hands” who are in their 50s and 60s. Tony Gilroy, who was in charge of the Rogue One reshoots is, what, 60, according to the internet; that makes sense. Rian Johnson, at just 43, is the outlier of the current group of filmmakers, although Colin Trevorrow is even younger at 40, but both of them feel even “riskier” and “edgier” now that Lord and Miller have been booted in favor of Howard.
Erik Hayden: I’m more interested in what might have been than what’s next. Lucasfilm apparently considered Howard to direct The Force Awakens, a movie that needed more world-building and character development and could’ve benefited from his directing style. And George Lucas did infamously ask Howard to helm The Phantom Menace. He turned the film down, saying that it was “too daunting.” It’s not a stretch to think that at least some of Menace’s issues could’ve been ironed out (the dialogue, pacing) and some of its strengths (the melodramatic and expansive plot) better articulated if Lucas had partnered with Howard.
Aaron Couch: A question I’m seeing asked on social media is — when was the last Ron Howard movie everyone actually really loved? It feels unkind to bring up, because he’s done so much good — Apollo 13, Beautiful Mind, Arrested Development (!) — but he’s had a string of misfires in the past few years (Inferno, In the Heart of the Sea). To be honest, for the last decade or so, seeing Howard is directing a movie doesn’t get me too excited (though I legitimately did want him to helm The Dark Tower). Still, my guess is after all the controversy, this is going to turn out well. There’s just no way Howard and Lucasfilm would allow otherwise. Just look at the millions spent on Rogue One reshoots to make sure that movie worked — and work it did.
Mia Galuppo: Look, Howard is gonna make a good movie. Will it be entertaining? Yes. Will it be interesting? No, definitely not. This is a director who has made his career out of biopics and adaptations, meaning he is very good at telling other people’s stories, which is exactly what he is going to do here. The Han Solo movie is not his story to tell, nor was it Lord or Miller’s. It was always Kasdan’s story. Also, he’s Opie, for God’s sake! He’s the guy who stays behind in American Graffiti instead of going to college! He’s not a narrative risk-taker, on or off the screen. But boy, can he tug on the heartstrings with the best of ’em.
McMillan: I mean, he’ll get the job done, and I’m sure it’ll be a great movie — he really is a professional, after all — but this whole episode underscores the ultimately conservative nature of the franchise, doesn’t it? We can talk about how progressive Star Wars has been in the last couple of years because it’s had (gasp!) female leads, albeit surrounded by male co-stars who get significant amounts of screen time, but it’s still a movie series that is a massive cash cow for Disney that no one wants to be too risky with.
Parker: I really want to see Clint Howard in this, and I really want him to play Cornelius Evazan.
Couch: Whoa! That’s right. He has to be in it — isn’t he in all of his brother’s movies?
The Han Solo movie is set for a May 25, 2018, release date.